Archive for the 'reading' Category

27th 2014
“Student Success Act” or “Dingelhoffer”, Let’s Make Bolder School Finance Proposal

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & reading & School Choice & school construction & School Finance & State Legislature & Teachers

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare’s Juliet famously asked. She had a point. If I decided to call a rose a dingelhoffer, it wouldn’t affect the beauty or scent of the flower in any way. Nor should we be distracted by the name given to Colorado’s finally released HB 1292, known as the Student Success Act. I’m talking about the grand proposal to dole out some of the extra dollars built up in the State Education Fund.

I don’t want to get hung up on the names. (Some called the HB 1262 teacher incentive program — very recently killed by a party-line committee vote — the “Great Act.” I liked the idea for what it would have done, not for what it was called.) That’s why you have little old me around, to help dig beneath the surface.

Chalkbeat Colorado broke the news about HB 1292 Tuesday night. It’s clearly a plan that has been evolving since the idea was floated a couple months ago. All the shifting pieces had me tied up in knots a couple weeks ago. Not everything is clear yet, but the new and finally introduced version of the bill seems okay. Continue Reading »

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12th 2014
State Debate on How to Spend Extra Education Dollars Has Me Twisted in Knots

Posted under Education Politics & Elementary School & Public Charter Schools & reading & school construction & School Finance & State Legislature & Teachers

When it comes to the question of education funding, I take a glance over at the Golden Dome and wonder: Are we headed for a big clash, or will there be an unexpected meeting of the minds? The stage has been set with the demise of Amendment 66 and a hefty balance of more than $1.1 billion in the State Education Fund.

Apparently, one month into the 2014 legislative session, there are two distinctly different visions of what to do at the State Capitol. On one hand, some groups and legislators from both parties want to rally behind a proposal that would incorporate a lot of last year’s Senate Bill 213 ideas on a smaller scale, just not attached to a statewide tax increase. Ideas on the table include more money to: Continue Reading »

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3rd 2014
Can Schools Boost Brain Skills for Reading, Not Just Raise Test Scores?

Posted under Grades and Standards & learning & reading & Research & School Accountability & Suburban Schools

Thanks once again to the edublog linking queen Joanne Jacobs, a December Scientific American column by psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman caught my attention. And it should yours, too.

The author unpacks a study of Boston students that found while some schools improved performance on standardized academic assessments, they didn’t really improve measures of cognitive ability. In other words, better schools boost scores on math and reading tests, but those students’ brain skills still are functioning about the same.

Kaufman begins the column by citing some of his own recent research that unsurprisingly shows “good standardized test takers also tend to have high cognitive ability.” I am curious to see more about how the two results mesh. As more schools increase test scores without registering an effect on brain skills, does the identified relationship or tendency fade? Continue Reading »


3rd 2013
Bad News for U.S. School Performance; How to Fix “Leaning Tower of PISA”?

Posted under Foreign Countries & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & learning & math & reading & Research & Sciences

Today is PISA Day, and I’m not referring to pepperoni pies or unusual Italian landmarks. The 2012 results from the Program for International Student Assessment are in, and it doesn’t look pretty for the good old USA. At least not on the surface.

First, let’s take a quick trip back to September, when I brought your attention to the unsettling book Endangering Prosperity and pointed out that America needs to take a different path to improve unimpressive math test scores. That was when our nation’s 15-year-olds scored a sub-par 487 on the PISA: Continue Reading »

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19th 2013
NCTQ’s Report on Teacher Prep Programs Must Do More Than Rattle a Few Cages

Posted under Edublogging & education schools & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & reading & Research & Teachers

Any large-scale effort at serious reform or innovation in K-12 education eventually leads to the vexing question of what to do about teacher preparation, ensuring there are enough effective instructors available. The consensus is fairly widespread that broadly speaking, today’s schools of education just aren’t getting the job done.

Released this week, the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Teacher Prep Review has been a long time in coming. The large-scale analysis of more than 1,100 teacher prep programs, in painting a bleak picture, has stirred up lots of debate and discussion. Here follow some of the highlights: Continue Reading »

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10th 2013
Finding the Positives in Colorado’s Latest 3rd Grade Reading TCAP Results

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Grades and Standards & learning & Magnet School & Parents & Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & Rural Schools & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

It’s that time of year again. I get to share some news and thoughts with you about the latest release of Colorado’s 3rd grade reading test results. We’re talking the “preliminary and unofficial” results from TCAP, the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, formerly known as CSAP. As last year’s debate on HB 1238 (the Colorado READ Act) reminded us, making sure kids have proficient reading skills by this milestone year is a crucial indicator of their future learning success.

Ed News Colorado this week reports:

Colorado’s third grade TCAP reading scores remained flat in 2013 for the third year in a row, according to TCAP results released Tuesday.

Once again defying the trend and deserving a little extra kudos is Denver Public Schools, for boosting its 3rd grade reading proficiency up to 61 percent, closer to the state average. Also making progress is Westminster 50, which rebounded from a low 40 percent two years ago to 50 percent today. As the article points out, Aurora took a small hit but anticipates “a much different story next year,” while large suburban districts Jefferson County, Douglas County, and Cherry Creek followed the state’s flat trend line. Continue Reading »

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14th 2012
Winters Just Made It Even Harder to Argue with Florida’s Education Success

Posted under Early Childhood & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & math & PPC & reading & Research & School Accountability & School Choice

Last time I wrote about Florida, it was touting their “silver medal” among the 50 states for growing student achievement in the past 15 years. The Harvard study that handed out the imaginary awards analyzed how much progress 4th-grade and 8th-grade students have made on the national NAEP test.

Second place out of 50? Not too shabby. But how valid is it? Some critics have said the remarkable gains Florida 4th-graders have achieved, particularly in reading, are dramatically overblown because of their student retention policy. Since 2003 most of the state’s 3rd-graders who have failed to demonstrate reading proficiency have been held back, of course the test results for the smaller pool of 4th-grade pupils is going to look better. End of story, right?

Not so fast. A recent Independence Institute guest speaker has gone behind the numbers to figure out just how much the retention policy can explain away Florida’s remarkable gains. In a newly published analysis for Education Next, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Marcus Winters finds the truth lies between the two claims, but closer to those made by Florida’s boosters than those made by its critics: Continue Reading »

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26th 2012
Harvard Study Puts Three States on Medal Stand for Boosting K-12 Achievement

Posted under Grades and Standards & International & learning & math & PPC & Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & Sciences

The latest edition of the Olympic Games is almost here (who else do you know who gets to live through two different Summer Olympics at age 5?), so what better time to hand out some figurative medals to states for K-12 student learning success? A new Harvard study by Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann sheds some helpful light on trends in Achievement Growth among nations and states.

The authors examine gold-standard test results of 4th and 8th graders to see where the United States’ progress from 1995 to 2009 ranks among 49 nations and how 41 individual U.S. states with enough data stack up against each other from 1992 to 2011. The good news? American students cumulatively picked up nearly a year’s worth of additional skills learned in math, science and reading, with stronger gains at the earlier grade level. The not-so-good news is we’re stuck in the middle of the pack:

Students in three countries–Latvia, Chile, and Brazil–improved at an annual rate of 4 percent of a std. dev., and students in another eight countries–Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Colombia, and Lithuania–were making gains at twice the rate of students in the United States. By the previous rule of thumb, gains made by students in these 11 countries are estimated to be at least two years’ worth of learning. Another 13 countries also appeared to be doing better than the U.S.

I guess you could sum up American educational progress over the past 15 years with the word so-so. But the more fascinating part of the report to me is the comparison of 41 states who have participated in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) since it started in 1992. The authors of the Harvard report seized the Olympic spirit and handed out “medals” to the three states that have shown the biggest learning gains over the past two decades. And they are: Continue Reading »

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18th 2012
“Teacher Who Couldn’t Read” Addresses Literacy at Next Brown Bag Lunch

Posted under Denver & events & Independence Institute & learning & PPC & reading & State Legislature & Teachers

That last Brown Bag Lunch back in April — the one with Marcus Winters, author of Teachers Matterwas such a success that my Education Policy Center friends are excited to introduce the second Brown Bag Lunch, coming soon:

This year’s signature education legislation, the Colorado READ Act, has shined the light on the need to boost early childhood literacy in our state. One of the nation’s great literacy champions is coming to the Mile High City to share his compelling story and his insights on this timely and critical issue. Please join us at the Independence Institute Freedom Embassy (727 E 16th Avenue, Denver, CO 80203) on Thursday, August 2, to hear from our special guest speaker, John Corcoran, president and CEO of the John Corcoran Foundation.

Continue Reading »

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14th 2012
The Bright & Not-So-Bright Spots of Colorado’s Latest 3rd Grade Reading Scores

Posted under Elementary School & Grades and Standards & innovation schools & learning & Parents & PPC & Public Charter Schools & reading & Rural Schools & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Can you believe it? Last week I didn’t write anything about the release of the CSAP TCAP results for 3rd grade reading. The state’s overall share of proficient 3rd grade readers (74 percent) is slightly better than the previous year. Colorado can still do better. To me, this is one of the most fundamental measures of how our schools are doing. If you can’t read well by the end of 3rd grade, future prospects look a lot different.

So I’m not the only one who likes to see what kind of progress we’re making on the CSAP TCAP. In the past five years, 3rd grade reading scores in most of the state’s 10 largest districts have been flat with very slight upticks. The notable exceptions are from the lower performers with greater student poverty. Aurora Public Schools improved from 46 percent proficient in 2007 to 51.5 percent in the latest round.

Even more remarkable, Denver Public Schools has made the leap from 50 percent proficient to 59 percent over the same five-year span. As DPS superintendent appropriately noted in his email announcement:

As pleased as we are with the growth, it is clear that we have much more work in front of us to continue to improve our elementary literacy.

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